The Many Trials of A Colorful Game

I’ve been heads-down refining the mechanics for A Colorful Game. Here are some of my discoveries from the 10 playtests that I’ve had so far:

Issue

Games were way too long. (1+ hour)

Resolution

I took care of this by minimizing the card count. Put the game at a smooth 30ish minute playtime. That’s the goal!

Issue

The game was also far more complex with decisions than I wanted it to be. You have to place AND move a tile—ugh! Too much brain juice to spend on what to do best. (I watched a player’s life flash before their eyes for more than 10 minutes, hoping to glean some forgotten wisdom to help them make a decision.)

Resolution

This was advice from another designer: Don’t make players have to add a new primary color tile to the play area AND have to move another tile. That’s a lot to deal with during a turn.

Note that doing this also helped to reduce the playtime to around 30 minutes.

Issue

Scoring points is just altogether difficult sometimes.

Resolution

Wild cards and bonus points! I added some cards to the game that let you fill in any blanks with a color of your choice. For example, if you have a contiguous path — orange, orange, green, purple, purple — you could play a wild with that to treat the green as a part of your path.

Also, if you scored with three or more cards, you get a bonus point; four or more and you get three bonus points!

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Wild card; but no bonus points for you!

This new format for the game helped shape it into the quick abstract strategy game that I was looking to make. That’s a huge milestone!

I’ve playtested this new version quite a few times and have found some new challenges to work through:

  • Games are a little too short now. It’s difficult for a player that’s behind to see a chance to come back and try to take the win.

    Idea to test: I’m going to add cards to the point deck or have the discard shuffle back into the deck.

  • With the introduction of wild cards, games feel like they’re not strategic enough (a little too luck of the draw).

    Idea to test: I’m going to add more wild cards and make them have a greater negative impact on players who use them.

  • Once you score a path, you remove all of the roads that you used to score that path with. That reduces momentum and gives too great an advantage to the first player to score.

    Idea to test: I think a “pick a color, remove all roads for that color” method can give the right balance of changing the play area in a fun way and not making players feel like they’ve got to start from scratch.

  • I need to work out how the game ends a little more. Right now, the game ends once the point card deck is depleted and neither player can score on their next turns…it just feels like an odd way to end the game.

    Idea to test: A “first player to x points” win condition should fix this. I just need to test whether this is fun and try to discover what “x points” value is best.

That’s all for now! Until next time…

Happy Playtesting (and Holidays)!

This may come as a shock to anyone reading this, but I play a lot of board games. Gasp! I know. This holiday season, I’ve had the chance to play a lot more board games with my close friends and family. I cherish the holidays. But enough about me, let me talk about how my board game designs are coming along…

Untitled Nation Manipulation Game

I’ve got a solid prototype that I’ve been playtesting with people. It’s balanced enough at this point that I’m going to start long form playtesting. (Playtesting the game at least ten times before weighing any feedback-based changes.)

Why haven’t I done that already? Well, the game wasn’t balanced AND I haven’t had the time to playtest the game that many times as of yet. The game is still lo-fi (image of some cards below for reference) but I’ve got it to a place where I can just bust it out and people can enjoy a long, mostly uninterrupted by rule confusion, session with people.

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Cards! Cards everywhere!

I’m also mostly finished with the one asset that hasn’t dramatically changed in theme during my construction of this game, the War Hero.

War_Hero.JPG
I bet he’ll look good on a card. (Still working through some textures.)

Early this January, I’m going to be finally hitting the playtesting scene hard for this game, and I’m excited for it to get torn a new one by strangers.

A Colorful Game

I made this game for the Button Shy 18 Card Game challenge, originally, but didn’t get picked to be a finalist. I later realized that for the most part, the challenge is based more on pretty designs and less on unique, fun game mechanics. I won’t be participating in another challenge, at least not for a while.

But something good did come out of it. I created a primary/secondary color creation game where you create secondary colors in sequences to score points. Here’s what that looked like for the challenge. (I threw the design together in like 5 minutes, so it’s pretty messy.)

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Primary colors one side of the card and secondary colors on the opposite side. Rotate the card to activate a certain color.

Well, I like the idea of the game but not the idea of it existing in cards like this. So that game evolved into this…

Now in A Colorful Game, you take certain placement or movement actions to generate secondary colors. Each primary color has different rules for how you can place and move it. You create paths of secondary colors through this, and in this, you score points based on the pattern of paths you created.

It’s taken me three weeks to redesign this game from the ground up, but it’s also ready to hit the playtesting circuit more heavily. Funny out that works, my Untitled Nation Manipulation game has taken almost two years to get to where it is right now. So it goes.

 

My Promises to My Future Self

I have the corniest reason for selecting this picture of a mountain top as my featured image. I took this photo while backpacking for a couple of days in the North Cascades. This is Colchuck Lake. My wife and I took this trip as a sort of pre-honeymoon, a few weeks before we got married.

Gross.

When I took the photo, I thought it was neat how the mountain was reflected on the water. I’m using the photo now because it’s sentimental and reminds me of a time when I was granted quiet, peaceful reflection. Mainly, I reflect on how lucky I am to have an amazing wife who supports me and to be surrounded by people who also have an interest in what I’m doing here.

I’m ready to take the next step forward and turn this design thing from a fun hobby into something real.

This is a board games blog, not live journal (is that still a thing?)

I’ve got a few things that I believe I’ve got to change to really get me there. I hope that I don’t lose people during this transition, but I think it’s for the better. Here’s what I’m talking about:

  • I’m working on an official name for the entity that I design games under. It’s not going to be “Under the Tabletop.” I really haven’t cared about an official name so far. My thought process on this is that I should have a game close to ready, something to really show, before I brand my work. Nothing is set in stone yet and as such, I have nothing more to say on that. But I’ll keep everyone informed along the way. I’d rather make this change now than later when I have a game or two being kickstarted and I don’t really know what to call myself.
  • Some time early next year, I’m going to close down Under the Tabletop and redirect all traffic to a new site. I’ll still keep up my development diaries, although they may expand somewhat.
  • I likely may not continue the whole “drink and review” thing. I haven’t written a drink and game pairing review in a while. It was fun, but my time so far has been so consumed with creating things that when I get to play a game with someone, I want to enjoy the moment. The drink and game review began to feel like a chore. At first, I thought it was a great way to show everyone that I’m actively participating in the board game community, but I think I’ve got different ways of showing that now.
  • I’m going to take on at least one smaller project and have it ready for a kickstarter campaign by March 2020. When I mean smaller project, I mean a shorter-paced game that you could likely fit in your wallet or a tin can. I have a few ideas on what that looks like and I’ll definitely keep everyone posted on that.

Thanks to everyone who has followed me thus far and I hope that you’re all there after my vaguely worded changes. (I promise, I’ll have more to come once I settle on a name and set up a C corp.)

My Button Shy 18 Card Game Challenge Extravaganza

Here’s a short update.

Thank goodness

Last month, I participated in the Button Shy Games 18 Card Game Challenge. Here were the terms of the challenge:

  • Make a game that only consists of 18 Cards
  • All cards have to be identical — no exceptions

I made a game where, from a grid of cards of primary colors, you create sequences of secondary colors. You then take a certain amounts of the cards involved in creating that sequence.

I titled my little card game: A Colorful Game

I’m not sure of the details or outcome of the challenge. If I don’t win —

Which is likely

Which is likely (oh no, I’m agreeing with my inner critic) — I’ll release my print and play version for free. If I somehow do win, I’m not sure what will happen to the game.

I’m also debating whether to enter this month’s challenge to create an 18 card game that doesn’t allow for a table or play surface (all cards must be in players hands the whole time).

Anyway, here’s a short gameplay demo video of A Colorful Game where I play an intense session against my dog.

Plan it! Keep Your Game Development on Track

A short one today, sorry!

Don’t apologize, this is the best day of my life

Now that I finally have a build of my tabletop game that can be played from start to finish, I’ve decided to double-down on an Agile-based development cycle. Here’s my development project plan, in a nutshell:

  • Two weeks of play testing and collecting feedback.
  • Two weeks of adjusting game mechanics and UI based on said feedback.

I’m going to try and work in some minor concept sketches for artwork.

Four week cycles?

Yes.

Divided into two weeks?

That’s right.

Sounds stupid.

Thanks.

Anyway, this is a staple of the Agile method. Put tasks into two week “sprints.” If you can’t do something, move it into the following sprint. It’s a great way to keep yourself on track while not feeling horrible for not getting everything done in a two week period.

You can also break your tasks out into manageable chunks. Nothing fancy:

  • Fix icons
  • Balance character X so they’re less powerful
  • Fix this crisis, it’s too hard for players to beat!

That’s all folks! as a reward for reading this, please enjoy these concept sketches of my characters with little context as to their thematic and mechanical relevance to my game! (I know, I drew the frog general a lot.)